Opening thought: What a decade the last one was, huh? We started 2000 with a Constitutional Crisis in which the Supreme Court determined the winner of the Presidential election, soon followed with September 11th, the worst day since December 7th, 1941. We are now fighting two wars in far flung places where few to none of the outside empires have ever won. We have seen a rise in powerful diseases. Our economy, our banking industry, and our hallowed American automobile industry, hobbled by massive debt, roared to a screeching train wreck.
Now here we sit, hurtling into 2010. The government seems ready to force nationalized medicine on our people along with riding roughshod over the consciences of people who are pro-life. We continue at war on two fronts and all around the world. They tell us the melting polar ice caps are going to flood our coastal areas. The local economy is not supposed to pick up in the new year. Our area has the highest unemployment in the state. Many have heavy health concerns among us. It would be easy to walk in fear in this new year, but we cannot. We must walk by faith.
There is a passage of Scripture which speaks to walking in faith and not by sight, and the one I’m thinking about is not Hebrews 11. It is found in the book of Numbers chapter 14.
Contextual Notes: The children of Israel have miraculously left the Promised Land, miraculously crossed the Red Sea, miraculously marched two million people through a desert, miraculously fed them a honey bread that fell from heaven called manna, miraculously hydrated them from a rock, miraculously defeated their enemies, miraculously received the Ten Commandments and the Law from the Lord at Mount Sinai, and miraculously received quail meat in the desert. (Pictured: Kadesh Barnea)
Now, after twelve spies miraculously explored the land of Canaan, the sons of Israel, who have lived a miraculous existence now for over a year, here at the very edge of the Promised Land, here at a place called Kadesh-barnea, here on the Jewish New Year, they balk. They falter. They fear. They rebel, and they fail. Their whole generation pays the penalty for their unbelief. They will die in the desert for it. For forty years they will suffer from what they do at Kadesh-barnea.
The lessons here teach us about living in an attitude of trust in the Lord. For the Israelites, the challenges seemed too high for them, and they were, but they discounted God’s presence, God’s protection, God’s agenda, and God’s promises.
Pray and Read: Numbers 14
Key Truth: Moses wrote Numbers 14 to teach believers to avoid being a faithless coward, to choose to be a faithful follower, and to follow the All-Seeing Presence of Christ.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about trusting the Lord.
Sermon Points: In the New Year
- Don’t be a faithless coward (Num 14:1-4)
- Choose to be a faithful follower (Num 14:5-9)
- Follow the All-seeing Presence (Num 14:10fff)
Exposition: Note well,
1. DON’T BE A FAITHLESS COWARD (Num 14:1-4).
a. Note that the text uses “all” of Israel involved (v. 1, 2, 7, 10). Never had there been such resolve of rebellion. (Pictured: Kadesh-barnea plain at the Egyptian border -- still the frontier of the Promised Land).
b. Note that they recognize God brought them there, but they slander him that he wants only to kill them all, enticing them into a trap. The majority want to go the way of rebellion.
c. Here they are at the frontier of Canaan, now ready to step into it, and they stop, they refuse. They shrink from this great opportunity, but not just an opportunity, a deliberate rejection of His rule in their lives, based on nothing at all, no evidence at all except the utter distrust of his word. They failed to rely on YHWH. They failed in a personal relationship with Him.
d. Faith is not in behaving certain ways. That is the result of faith. Faith is not belief in a creed or set of beliefs. That is the organization of faith. Faith is cleaving to a Person whom the creed makes known. For you and me, Unbelief is the same dark and fatal sin. To depart from the living God always results in rebellion and death.
e. Note the short memory and gross ingratitude of unbelief. Often Israel is criticized for being so short in these areas with so many miracles around. Pillar of fire by night, Pillar of cloud by day. Every day. Manna every day. Sinai’s thunderbolts, water from rocks. But one look in our hearts shows we are worse off than they were. The miraculous can become commonplace in our lives not because it is less miraculous, but because we refuse to retain the knowledge of God as Paul says in Romans 1.
f. Note the sin of unbelief. God had said the Land flowed with ‘milk and honey’ and they would conquer it, but they would not believe him unless they could verify his promises. Their own fears were reflected in the bad report of the ten spies. They wanted to believe what they said. Without examination, without thinking, without qualification, they took the bad report, the report of unbelief, as gospel.
g. See the next step. Unbelief leads to unbelieving action – irrational behavior -- otherwise known as rebellion. No, they won’t go back to Egypt. They will go to Canaan by themselves. Real smart. (Num 14:39-45). They bought defeat and then a lifetime of slavery rather than freedom, wealth, and expansion.
h. APPLICATION: We are stepping into a new year, and it is easy to look forward in fear rather than remember God’s miraculous work in our lives in the past and his promises for our future. In this New Year, are you operating in unbelief? Have you forgotten what the Lord has done for you this past year and the years prior? Is your business operating in fear, or is it submitted to Christ this year? Is your family operating in fear, or are you all trusting Christ in this new year? Are you continuing to walk in fear, oblivious to God’s blessings and care, or are you trusting Christ in this new year? Would you like to trust Christ for the first time today in this new year? At the end of this message you can come forward and I will lead you to Christ if you want to be a follower of Jesus.
i. What about our church? This church is congregationally-governed under the Lordship of Christ. It is not run by the pastor or the deacons or some personality. That means every one of us who is a member here is called to responsibility before the Lord. Are we going to operate in fear or will we trust the Lord in this new year? Are we going to do things that open the doors wide to see many come to Christ and participate in Christ’s life here? Or are we going to do things and say things and vote things that close the door and keep us to us four and no more? Keep us to the familiarity of a family-run church where everyone knows everyone? Or are we going to look toward the opportunities in these housing developments around us, these people moving out here, and pray them in and love them into the kingdom? Not always is the majority decision the best one, and many a church has been turned into a useless group of people going through motions. What does this church want to do?
2. CHOOSE TO BE A FAITHFUL FOLLOWER (Num 14:5-9).
a. There were four who were faithful: Moses, Aaron, Caleb, and Joshua. They were in mortal peril of stoning. They stood not just for what was right, but their lives were on the line. They were defenseless, powerless against the mob. Moses, the work of his life crumbling before his eyes, every hope for his people dashed by their own insane fear. What nobler thing could Moses do than fall before the Lord in intercession?
b. Caleb and Joshua were in a different position, to repeat their testimony of the Land and their confidence in the Lord. Tearing their robes in mourning and great distress, they shout about the Land, “good, exceedingly, exceedingly.” “He will bring us into this land to give it to us.” That is the only antidote to fear – to remind yourself and your people of God’s promises. The Anakites: “They are bread for us.” Because “the Lord is with us.” Victory comes in obedience. In trust. Alexander Maclaren: “Obedience turns God’s ‘ifs’ into ‘verilys.’
c. APPLICATION: In this new year, our freedoms are in trouble, our consciences may be crossed by legislation, our families may suffer from want because of the economy. Our security apparatuses have demonstrated their ineptness and emboldened our terrorist enemies to send more attacks. We have no defense save the Lord.
d. Are you going to operate in fear? Are you going to lead your family in fear? Or are you going to cry out for this nation in intercession? Are you going to cry out for your family in intercession?
3. FOLLOW THE ALL-SEEING PRESENCE (Num 14:10ff)
a. The Sudden Appearance of the Glory of the Lord.
b. Alexander Maclaren: “Nothing is more hateful to resolute sinners than good counsel which is undeniably true.”
c. The stones in the hands fell to the ground as the hushed dread of the wondrous Shekinah light came forth from the sanctuary of the Tabernacle. The same light and fire that destroyed the two sons of Aaron for offering strange fire.
d. These people were not fit for the fight, for the land, for the inheritance. It would go to a new generation, reared in the harshness of the desert. God’s sentence on that generation was mercy and judgment. They would not be destroyed, but they would wander in uselessness for the rest of their lives. God didn’t keep them out of the Promised Land. They did it to themselves.
e. Heb 3:17-19: “They could not enter in because of unbelief.”
f. APPLICATION: Unbelief will destroy you and everything you have and your entire future. Unbelief is rooted in fear. Do not enter this new year in fear. Enter it in trust. Trust in Christ. Trust in his heart. Trust him where you cannot see him. Don’t cave in to an irrational, undocumented, foolish, rebellious fear that will lead you away from God’s promises for you in this new year.